Baptist History Homepage

The One Distinctive Difference Between Baptists and All Others
By S. H. Ford, 1890
      CHARLEMAGNE, canonized as Saint Charles by Paschal III, when he had subdued the pagan Saxons in his zeal for their conversion issued the decree containing this law: “If any person of the Saxon race shall contemptuously refuse to come to baptism, and shall resolve to continue a pagan, let him be put to death.” Thousands submitted and were christened. Many refused and were slaughtered. The course of the king was approved by the reigning pontiff Hadrian, and the dogma of through Baptism to faith and to Christ and to salvation was exemplified, as indeed it is in the “Christening” of every unconscious or unwilling child. The whole British population as represented by its national church and by the queen, who is the head of that church, are “members of Christ and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.” Dissenters are tolerated, but this christening of the whole population is the supreme law of the land, and the whole population is supposed to be members of Christ and children of God, by baptism. Every child under Episcopal influence, is taught that its regeneration, its engrafting into Christ was through baptism, and were the Episcopal church paramount in this country - were it the controlling power, every person of the sixty millions of our inhabitants, whether believers or no, whether pious or not, would be members of that church, and, as such, “inheritors of the Kingdom of heaven through baptism.


      Theoretically and spiritually, the Presbyterian church holds to, and teaches, the doctrine of justification by faith only. But practically and categorically, she holds to, and teaches, union with Christ through baptism and the church. Here are the teachings of her venerable Confession:

      Q. 165. What is baptism? A. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be the sign and seal of ingrafting into himself; of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life: and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly baptized into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's. - (Westminster Confession, page 337.) A sign, signifies; that is, makes a thing known by action. A sign verifies - declares a fact. A sign manual verifies a deed; a sign without a reality is a fiction. To sign one’s name to a blank sheet, signifies nothing and is valueless. A signature to a conveyance of and when there is no land transferred, is a fraud. A sign of possession when there is nothing possessed is a hollow sham. Of what then is baptism a sign when there is no faith, no voluntary submission, no new spiritual relation experienced, and no pardon bestowed? Baptism is a sign of what, in an unconscious babe or an unconverted adult. The answer of the Confession and Catechism is a sign and a seal of engrafting into Christ. Through baptism to Christ. It is farther a seal - authenticates the fact that the baptized are engrafted into Christ, regenerated and saved. So says the Confession: “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church ; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace of his ingrafting into Christ of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the World."'

      A sign and SEAL, of REGENERATION. - the sign manual of the Eternal that the baptized one, and of course in baptism, is eternally saved, engrafted into Christ, regenerated and pardoned,

      “Infant baptism,” said Dr. Rice in his debate with A. Campbell, “as well as that of adults, becomes a means of grace.” (Debate, p. 485.) “Baptism is a pledge, so to speak, that God will forgive the sins of those who comply with the conditions set forth in His word” (p. 468). A means, that is, an instrument, an agency or way of attaining an end or object. Is baptism a means of obtaining grace, the grace of regeneration and pardon? So says Dr. Rice, so say the Presbyterian authorities. Through baptism to grace, to Christ, to salvation, versus the scriptural doctrine, which Baptists hold, through faith in Christ to baptism, and without this - nothing.

      There is but one means, or agency, or way to God's presence, but one mediator between God and man. It is the Lord Jesus. To his throne of grace we are called to come - immediately, direct, boldly - not through baptism as a means, or a way, or a mediation. Here is the one difference between the Presbyterians and the Baptists - baptism as a means, or a way, or method of approach to Christ for grace, pardon, salvation; versus faith in Christ as the only means, way, or method through which baptism can be received or be valid.

      Presbyterians in their higher spiritual modes of thought, doubtless reject their own theories and teachings. But there it is, in their confession and catechism, strong as language can make it : “Baptism Is A CONFIRMATIVE MARK OF REGENERATION. - OF REMISSION OF SINS,” and Calvin, the acknowledged expounder of the doctrine of that venerable church, says:

      “Baptism is a sign of initiation by which we are admitted into the society of the church, in order that being incorporated into Christ, we may be numbered among the children of God. Now it has been given to us by God for these ends, which I have shewn to be common to all sacraments; first, to promote our faith towards him; secondly, to testify our confession before men ''

      “Nor must it be supposed that baptism is administered only for the time past, so that for sins into which we fall into after baptism it would be necessary to seek other new remedies of expiation in I know not what other sacraments, as if the virtue of baptism were become obsolete. In consequence of this error, it happened in former ages, that some persons would not be baptized except at the close of their life, and almost in the moment of their death, so that they might obtain pardon for their whole life; a preposterous caution which is frequently censured in the writings of the ancient bishops. But we ought to conclude that at whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified for the whole of life. Whenever we have fallen, therefore, we must recur to the remembrance of baptism, and arm our minds with the consideration of it, that we may be always certified and assured of the remission of our sins. For though, when it has been once administered, it appears to be past, yet it is not abolished by subsequent sins. For the purity of Christ is offered to us in it; and that always retains its virtue. is never overcome by any blemishes, but purifies and obliterates all our defilements.” - Calvin's Institutes, chap. xv.

      When even we have fallen, therefore we must recur to the remembrance of baptism - Why? “Because the virtue of baptism” has not become obsolete. For the purity of Christ is offered to us in it, and that always retains its virtue. That is to say, the virtue of Christ's purity is bound up for us in baptism, and when we fall into sin we are to turn to baptism as the way to Christ. This is Presbyterianism. Nor can its heresy and ruinous results be got rid of, till the Saviour's teaching: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” is made the watchword and baptism without faith is abandoned as unscriptural and sinful.

      Turn we next to the Methodist view of baptism as the door of entrance to Christ.


[From S. H. Ford, The Christian Repository, October, 1890, pp. 265-268. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Baptist Biographies
Baptist History Homepage